Roughly 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year, nearly equivalent to the weight of all humans on the planet.
Half of this is single-use plastic, meaning it is used once then throw away. Some of the most common products of single-use plastic includes drinking straws, cups, cutlery, packaging and shopping bags. This plastic usually goes into a landfill, where it is buried or gets into water and finds its way into the ocean.
The sheer volume of plastic produced makes it difficult to recycle, and many countries do not have adequate plastic recycling programs in place. Consequently, only 10 to 13% of plastic is recycled worldwide.
Most plastic is produced from petroleum, which makes it non-biodegradable; that is, it cannot be broken down by soil microorganisms. Although plastic will not biodegrade, it does photodegrade into tiny particles after 450-1,000 years, creating micro-plastics. In the process of breaking down, plastics release toxic chemicals, which make their way into our food and water supply.
The World Economic Forum has said that unless we do something drastic, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. While this sounds like a hopeless situation, being more mindful of our consumption of single-use plastics can go a long way towards helping to solve this problem.
About 500 million plastic straws are thrown away every day. Just by using a stainless steel or glass straw, or not using a straw at all, you can help bring this number down.
While not all plastics can be recycled, 80% of glass can be. Glass jars also don’t contain the chemicals in plastic that can leach into food, and glass can be safely washed at high temperatures and reused. So always choose glass over plastic if possible.
Once you start thinking about what single-use plastics you use, you will probably come up with more ideas on where and how to cut down. Remember that every little bit helps!